London Taxi Cabbies: Info and Tips

London Cabbies


London Taxi Cabbies

London Taxi Cabbies have bigger brains!

London Taxi Cabbies are some of the most interesting taxi cab drivers in the world because they do not use GPS or maps. Instead, in order to  receive the green badge, displayed in all London taxi cabs, and become a London taxi cab driver, you must pass the Test of Knowledge.

London Taxi Cabbies take the Test of Knowledge


THE Test of Knowledge

This intimidating sounding test is not simple memorization as we know it for tests and classes. Studying for the test of all tests, called The Knowledge, takes years. London Taxi Cabbies must memorize ALL 25,000 streets and the locations of 20,000 landmarks within a six mile radius of Charing Cross and learn 320 routes between them.

Those studying for the test are called Knowledge Boys or Girls and often are seen around the city on scooters. On average, it takes 3 years to study for and pass the exam.

Cabbies have been pitted against GPS and other computer programs and so far…cabbies always win. They are quite proud of their ability to set routes in their head within seconds.

Increased brain power

Their studies are so intense that their brains actually change from all the knowledge. Did you catch that? Their brains actually CHANGE. The section of the brain that is responsible for spatial navigation, the hippocampus, is much larger in experienced taxi cabbies than in the general public. AND the longer the taxi cabbie has been driving, the larger that part of the brain becomes.

Taxi Cabbie brains grow

This is especially interesting to researchers because it is an example of increasing the brain in adulthood.  Most research on brain changes had been done on children so researchers find this group of taxi cabbies especially interesting because all information required for taxi driving is learned in adulthood.

Those who finally succeed and pass the knowledge test have a tradition of the first fare…their first riders are taken free of charge.

Could you take the Test of Knowledge? Would you? Whether or not you are interested in becoming a cabbie, remember this….you can increase your brain power! You can actually increase your brain size!

Tips for using Taxi Cabbies in London:

How to Pay for your cab ride.

Cash is no longer king in the black taxi cabs. Now you can use these forms of payment: cash, card, and contactless payment.

How to hail a cab properly.

It is illegal to yell ‘TAXI’ and they will not stop for you. Instead, stick out your arm when the taxi is approaching. Only the ones with the ‘taxi’ sign lit are ready for passengers. When the taxi stops, tell the driver where you want to go, BEFORE getting in.

London Taxi Cabs are Accessible to All.

Not only are ALL London taxi cabs handicapped accessible, they will also take assistance dogs at no charge.

Which to choose: black taxi cab or mini cab?

Black Taxis can be hailed on the street while mini cabs can only be reserved ahead of time. Black Taxis are a little more expensive than mini cabs but are a fascinating part of the London experience as your driver is incredibly knowledgable!


Happy Travels,

Natalie, The Educational Tourist

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21 Responses

  1. Karla says:

    Cafes for cab drivers … feels like an exclusive membership

  2. Hats off to the London cabbies for being so professional and learning what they have to to do thei jobs properly. I have been in several cabs where the drivers got lost, but not on London.

  3. Chris says:

    Thanks Natalie! Such a great little read about an iconic part of the London fabric!

  4. When I was living in London I used to see these people studying away on their scooters, and I can tell you…that I would probably NOT pass. aahahh ever.

  5. Tara Cannon says:

    That is really cool Natalie ! I have recently had some bad experiences with misguided GPS instructions, so I would pick the cabbie every time. Very interesting post.

  6. elizabeth says:

    Fascinating, especially the part about their brain changing. Evey city should have such high standards for cab drivers. Instead both cabbies and UBER drivers rely on GPS- and yes using that all the time changes your brain as well (and I am not sure it is for the better!)

    • NatalieTanner says:

      Interesting…had not considered how using GPS would change our brain. I wasn’t good at reading maps before GPS and I’m pretty sure I am ever worse now without the practice!

  7. theglobewanderers says:

    I can’t believe their brains actually change. That is an incredible and really inspiring fact. Amazing to think what the human mind is capable of. Fascinating – thanks for sharing :).

  8. When I started traveling in Europe, I actually wanted to apply as a cab driver! They are amazing. They know everything and I believe they undergo a very extensive training. London is pretty much successful in this department. I’ve never seen any drivers like these.

  9. Total fail for me! I’ve always wanted to know more about the cabbies test and here is the post to tell me!

  10. That’s amazing! The brain – so many awesome capabilities and mysteries about it!

  11. This is such a neat read! I definitely wouldn’t be a good candidate, but my other half, Macrae, would totally be great at this! I rely on him for all our “mapping” when we travel. (Unless it’s metro travel). Would love to be the first ride for one of these cabbies – but meeting any would spark some great conversation!

    • NatalieTanner says:

      LOL! I wouldn’t get past the first five minutes of training. I’m not the map reader in the family either, but try to give the kids all the practice I can so they can feel comfortable using it. I would love to hear from someone who had the pleasure of being the first ride!! Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  1. January 30, 2017

    […] London is on YOUR list of places to see, be sure to check out the interesting facts on London Taxi Cabs – their brains are actually larger after driving than […]

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